Cats in Australia

Cats are kept as pets in Australia and are also one of the major invasive species that are causing detrimental effects to indigenous wildlife due to predation. For biosecurity reasons, any cats that are imported into Australia must meet conditions set by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. An estimated 2.7 million domestic cats and between 2.1 and 6.3 million feral cats are now found in Australia.[1]

Feral cat with a Major Mitchell's cockatoo

Historical contextEdit

Historical records date the introduction of cats to Australia at around 1804 and that cats first became feral around Sydney by 1820.[2] In the early 1900s, concern was expressed at the pervasiveness of the cat problem [3]

Domesticated catsEdit

Domesticated cats have been confirmed to prey on native animals, and surveys of catches have regularly occurred.[4] In 2016, 29% of Australian households had a domesticated cat.[5]

Feral catsEdit

Feral cats are one of the major invasive species in Australia and have been linked to the decline and extinction of various native animals. They have been shown to cause a significant impact on ground-nesting birds and small native mammals.[6] Feral cats have also hampered any attempts to reintroduce threatened species back into areas where they have become extinct, as the cats have simply hunted and killed the newly released animals.[7] Numerous Australian environmentalists claim the feral cat has been an ecological disaster in Australia, inhabiting most ecosystems except dense rainforest, and being implicated in the extinction of several marsupial and placental mammal species.[8][9] Some inhabitants have begun eating cat meat to mitigate the harm that wild cats do to the local wildlife.[10]

A field experiment conducted in Heirisson Prong (Western Australia) compared small mammal populations in areas cleared of both foxes and cats, of foxes only, and a control plot. Researchers found the first solid evidence that predation by feral cats can cause a decline in native mammals. It also indicates that cat predation is especially severe when fox numbers have been reduced.[11] Cats may play a role in Australia's altered ecosystems; with foxes they may be controlling introduced rabbits, particularly in arid areas, which themselves cause ecological damage. Cats are believed to have been a factor in the extinction of the only mainland bird species to be lost since European settlement, the paradise parrot.[12] Cats in Australia have no natural predators except dingoes and wedge-tailed eagles, and as a result, they are apex predators where neither the dingo nor the eagle exists.

Australian folklore holds that some feral cats in Australia have grown so large as to cause inexperienced observers to claim sightings of other species such as cougars. This folklore is being shown to be more fact than fiction, with the shooting in 2005 of an enormous feline,[13] in the Gippsland area of Victoria. Subsequent DNA test showed it to be a feral cat.[14]

Since 2016, a program on Kangaroo Island aims to eradicate an estimated population between 3,000 and 5,000 cats by 2030.[15][16]

Phantom catsEdit

The numerous sightings of phantom cats in Australia include the Gippsland phantom cat and the Blue Mountains panther.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Legge, S.; Murphy, B.P.; McGregor, H.; Woinarski, J.C.Z.; Augusteyn, J.; Ballard, G.; Baseler, M.; Buckmaster, T.; Dickman, C.R.; Doherty, T.; Edwards, G.; Eyre, T.; Fancourt, B.A.; Ferguson, D.; Forsyth, D.M.; Geary, W.L.; Gentle, M.; Gillespie, G.; Greenwood, L.; Hohnen, R.; Hume, S.; Johnson, C.N.; Maxwell, M.; McDonald, P.J.; Morris, K.; Moseby, K.; Newsome, T.; Nimmo, D.; Paltridge, R.; Ramsey, D.; Read, J.; Rendall, A.; Rich, M.; Ritchie, E.; Rowland, J.; Short, J.; Stokeld, D.; Sutherland, D.R.; Wayne, A.F.; Woodford, L.; Zewe, F. (February 2017). "Enumerating a continental-scale threat: How many feral cats are in Australia?". Biological Conservation. 206: 293–303. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2016.11.032.
  2. ^ Abbott, Ian; Department of Environment and Conservation (2008). "Origin and spread of the cat, Felis catus, on mainland Australia: re-examination of the current conceptual model with additional information" (PDF). Conservation Science Western Australia Journal (7). Retrieved 11 February 2013.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ "THE CAT PROBLEM in AUSTRALIA". Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 - 1954). Perth, WA: National Library of Australia. 22 December 1912. p. 8 Edition: Christmas Number, Section: Third Section. Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  4. ^ Reark Research; Petcare Information and Advisory Service (1994), Research report : the metropolitan domestic cat, April 1994 : a survey of the population characteristics and hunting behaviour of the domestic cat in Australia, Petcare Information and Advisory Service, ISBN 978-0-646-19003-7
  5. ^ Animal Medicines Australia (2016), Pet Ownership in Australia 2016 (PDF), Animal Medicines Australia
  6. ^ Dickman, Chris (May 1996). Overview of the Impacts of Feral Cats on Australian Native Fauna (PDF). The Director of National Parks and Wildlife - Australian Nature Conservation Agency - Institute of Wildlife Research. ISBN 0 642 21379 8. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 11 February 2013.
  7. ^ The Threat Of FeralCats
  8. ^ Robley, A.; Reddiex, B.; Arthur, T.; Pech, R.; Forsyth, D. (September 2004). Interactions between feral cats, foxes, native carnivores, and rabbits in Australia (PDF). Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 March 2011. Retrieved 12 February 2013.
  9. ^ Davies, Wally; Prentice, Ralph (March 1980), "The feral cat in Australia", Wildlife in Australia, 17 (Mar 1980): 20–26, 32, retrieved 21 January 2016
  10. ^ Mercer, Phil (2 September 2007). "Australians cook up wild cat stew". BBC News.
  11. ^ Risbey, Danielle A.; Calver, Michael C.; Short, Jeff; Bradley, J. Stuart; Wright, Ian W. (2000). "The impact of cats and foxes on the small vertebrate fauna of Heirisson Prong, Western Australia. II. A field experiment". Wildlife Research. 27 (3): 223. doi:10.1071/WR98092.
  12. ^ "Psephotus pulcherrimus — Paradise Parrot". Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. 13 March 2012. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
  13. ^ "Engel Gippsland big cat". Retrieved 2 May 2008.
  14. ^ "Feral Mega Cats"
  15. ^ "'They're highly evolved predators': Kangaroo Island's plan to be cat-free". 6 October 2016.
  16. ^

External linksEdit